Quest for the Fountain of Youth

FasterSkierApril 30, 2003

As readers of previous this column know I am always in search of the sure-fire way to improve my fitness. Recently, my wife and I decided to buy a hot tub or, I should say, portable hydrotherapy spa in today terms. If you read the sales literature, portable hydrotherapy spas or hot tubs are today’s fountains of youth. Hot tubs will restore the natural well being to your body, what ever that is. Simply by sitting in a tub of hot water my muscles will relax, pressure will be relieved on nerves, my circulation will increase, pressure will be relieved on joints and muscles and my bodies natural healing processes will be accelerated and romance returned to my life. What was that? I had to stop add reread that last section. The beautiful women soaking in the tubs in the pictures all seemed to have rather content serene expressions on their faces. When I pointed this out to my wife she promptly responded that it was probably because their companions, the men, in the pictures were “hunks”. I hadn’t really noticed them. They did seem to have on over abundance of muscles. Maybe that is an additional benefit from soaking in a spa. If I could end up with muscles like that I could surely ski faster.

I have long been a fan of hot water, which is fortunate since I am usually in, domestic hot water for one reason or another. I spent a lot of time in my youth soaking in hot springs and my preferred choice would have been to develop a hot spring at our house. Given the exorbitant cost of developing a hot spring and the potential conflicts with the neighbors, (Would it be ok if I diverted a stream of hot water through your yard), a portable hydrotherapy spa made more sense. It still was not an easy decision to buy a hot tub. We debated about it a number of years. How much would we use it? Would it be worth the cost? Where would we put it? The memories of building a house have not faded enough for me to even think about talking with contractors again. After much discussion we decided that we would like to get a tub one of these years. That was until a few months ago when my quest for a hot tub began. I call it a quest since buying a hot tub has taken on mythical proportions complete with dealing with various charlatans, silver tongued devils, mazes of deceptive information, and monstrous matrimonial battles.

The quest really began this summer when my wife had some major landscaping done including the poring of a concrete patio, which coincidentally was an excellent spot for a hot tub. I should have seen the writing on the wall or ground in this case but didn’t. I thought that we were still debating the merits of buying a tub when my wife came home one day and announced, ” I found a hot tub”. She had visited a local tub shop and a “nice guy” there showed her several tubs. He had one of last years tubs that was a floor model that he would sell to us for thousands off the regular price. “You should go look at it”, she said. Relief swept over me. At least she hadn’t bought it yet.

I am not sure if this is a true difference between men and women and I don’t want to start a gender war, but my wife and I are very different shoppers. When my wife decides she needs something, she proceeds forthright, without passing go, to the nearest shop and buys it. There are no model comparisons. No quality assessments, No price comparisons or value matrices or background research. It is pretty simple; “I’ll take that one”. It drives me crazy. I, on the other hand, am very methodical researching various products carefully, assessing the quality records of manufactures all the while trying to obtain the most value for my money. My wife call this behavior, “anal”. This process usually takes a while (months) and can drag on longer for larger purchases, say over ten bucks.

My wife has developed a strategy for dealing with large purchases when I am conducting my thorough research. She simply threatens to go out and buy it. This generally has the desired effect of spurring me to frantic action lest we be stuck with a hot tub full of green slime. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The spa industry is part of the wild frontier of sales which is the reason that has reinvented itself from the hot tub industry which must have been Neolithic. Car sales persons look positively pedestrian and urbane compared to these guys. In the spa industry, there is no set sticker price, no standard features or accessories. Each spa manufacture packages their products differently to purposefully create confusion among consumers. I didn’t know any of this when I set out to check out my wife’s choice. It took me, four trips to this spa shop to find anyone there during business hours. A lesser man might have given up but I persisted and finally meet the “nice guy” my wife had talked to. He showed me the tub, which was partially filled with water and green slime. Mr. Nice Guy proudly proclaimed that this was the best-designed, best-built tub and most energy-efficient tub in the country. I was having trouble imaging sitting in the green slime. To humor him, I asked him how long this manufacture had been in business. He replied, ” Five years under this name”. I had a sinking feeling that buying a spa was going to be much harder than I imagined.

The intensity of my quest picked up dramatically as I proceeded to visit nearly every spa dealer in the region. I continued to experience variations on the sales mantra “best built, designed, most-energy efficient”. “You won’t even notice it on your power bill” one said. The dueling claims were amazing. For two types of an accessory, one manufacture never used A because it always failed while the next manufacture always used A because B always failed. After sifting through these conflicting sales pitches I finally asked for price quotes. Salesman A has a price sheet that lists the retail price as $8600, “But just today I can sell if to you for $7,195.95” he says. Pardon me but why print up a price sheet if the real price is that much lower. Saleswomen B lists a price but there is a special sale in progress that “gives” you a $1000 dollars worth of accessories if you pay this price. It turns out that the accessories are all included in Salesman A’s price. Ugh. I thought these things were supposed to improve ones sense of well being.

After much agonizing I had narrowed the field of contenders to two which I presented to my wife for her blessing. During my quest, she had simply stood back providing little assistance other than a reminder that she was going to have to just buy one, soon. We now jointly evaluated the final two and made a decision. I trekked down to the shop once more and filled out the purchase paper work. I think my wife was happy.

Upon returning home I scanned the piles of literature I had collected during the search that my wife was now trying to throw away. I happened to notice a tub that I had not looked at and turmoil set in. My wife said that my anal compulsive side kicked in. I was in a state of agitation. Had I made the right decision? Was this the best tub for the money? I didn’t sleep well that night and resolved the next morning to walk into one more tub shop in an effort to appease my conscience or my anal compulsive side. I steeled myself for the verbal assault of the silver-tongued salesman to no avail. I left this shop with a real dilemma. I had now agreed to buy two tubs. I was really in hot water so to speak.

Before I called my wife and tried rationally explained what I had done, I called and weaseled out of buying the first tub. When I finally told her what I had done, she was nonchalant as if she had expected me to do this. I at last felt some peace and relief and the turmoil in my abdomen had settled down. I now began feel a sense of relief and perhaps the renewed sense of well being as advertised and the tub had yet to arrive at my house. Perhaps its was the result of finally escaping from the sales sharks and no longer having to worry about my wife bringing home a tub full of green slime. The tub will be delivered next week and if the literature is true I will be experiencing restored well being, whatever that is. I am sure that it will make me ski faster. I had better after going through all this.


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